© John Mills
© John Mills

Graphene-enhanced aircraft flies

Prospero, the first model aircraft to incorporate a graphene skinned wing, was successfully flown at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK earlier this year.

The flight set an example of how graphene could be used within the aerospace sector.

Graphene exhibits impressive mechanical, thermal, electrical and barrier properties which are important features within the aerospace and automotive sector. It can be used as a nano-additive within thermoplastics and thermosets to improve the mechanical properties of the base material and also reduce weight.

The research is a joint collaboration between The University of Manchester and the University of Central Lancashire, UK, and several SMEs, including Haydale Composite Solutions.

James Baker, graphene business director at the National Graphene Institute (NGI), said: “This collaboration between academia and industry is a great example of how graphene might be used as a potentially disruptive technology in a market like aerospace and help maintain Europe’s position in the market.

“At Composite Europe 2016 we will also launch a drone with graphene polypropylene propeller blades that shows improvement in both mechanical and thermal properties. Graphene as a material is still relatively new but already we are seeing a range of applications not only for aerospace but also in many other markets.”

Billy Beggs, engineering innovation manager at the University of Central Lancashire, added: “The tests were very encouraging and proved to us that graphene has huge potential for aerospace; it is very strong, yet lightweight and flexible at the same time. Through the data collected from those initial flights our research has now moved on to the next level by developing processes of infusing graphene into composite structures.”

Prospero will be exhibited at Composites Europe in Düsseldorf, Germany, from 29 November until 1 December.